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Why Should I Visit Karpathos?

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Karpathos at a glance

Stately Karpathos, the second-largest island in the Dodecanese, sits imperiously at the south-eastern edge of the Aegean like a cultural bridge between Crete and Rhodes.

This far-flung destination, with its exotic beaches, emerald waters, and picturesque villages shrouded in clouds, is a unique world of fascinating contrasts.

From the mountainous north, with its windswept peaks and steep slopes, to the fertile south with its fragrant pine trees and vineyards, the raw beauty of Karpathos defies description. This zig-zagging strip of land, with its ancient stone-paved paths, sacred citadels, time-honoured traditions, and proud people, offers an unparalleled opportunity for lovers of authenticity to experience travel at its purest. You can experience it too by choosing a ticket to Karpathos.

10 reasons to visit Karpathos
  1. To discover the enchanting Olimpos, a jewel of a village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This medieval settlement, which dates from the 7th to the 9th century, perches on the steep slopes of the Hill of the Prophet Elijah, untouched by time. In this living folk museum, the women still wear brightly-coloured traditional costumes, speak an ancient Doric dialect, and bake their bread in outdoor wood-fired ovens.
  2. To see a magnificent sunset from the lush green village of Pyles. Surrounded by orchards, the settlement has views of the neighbouring island of Kassos and the Sitia mountains of Crete.
  3. To buy fine handwoven textiles made by the highly skilled women of Olimpos.
  4. To visit the ruins of the ancient city of Arkesia on the rocky peninsula of Paleokastro and admire the superb mosaic floors of the early Christian (5th century) basilica of Saint Anastasia.
  5. To discover an international windsurfing destination at the famous Afiartis, one of the windiest parts of the Mediterranean. The beaches there, Vatha (Devil’s Bay), Limni (Gun Bay) and Makris Yialos (Chicken’s Bay), cover all levels of difficulty for fans of the sport.
  6. To take a mini-cruise to the uninhabited island of Saria, a dream-like location of unique natural beauty just off the northern tip of Karpathos. Wander around the old Arabian settlement known as “Palatia” (palaces) with its vaulted stone buildings, at ancient Nisyros. Swim in the emerald waters of the tiny beach and climb up to the church of Saint Zachary to gaze out over the Aegean. The tiny island, a sanctuary for rare birds and the Mediterranean monk seal, is part of the Natura 2000 network.
  7. To admire the church of Saint John, hidden in a subterranean cave near the ancient city of Vrikounta.
  8. To visit the Skopi, one of the largest and most impressive squares in the Dodecanese, in the lovely village of Mesohori. Wander around and stop to admire the traditional island houses with their pebbled courtyards and elaborate interior decoration. The locals leave their front doors open for just this purpose!
  9. To experience the excitement of the famous village festivals of Karpathos. With colourful local costumes, music from lutes, lyres and bagpipes, enthusiastic singing and lively dancing, the atmosphere is truly bacchanalian.
  10. To explore the beautiful Menetes, the largest village on Karpathos, with its pastel-coloured neoclassical mansions and large 19th-century Church of the Assumption, built at the top of the imposing Holy Rock. Admire the unique carved wooden icon screen and the superb view of Pigadia, the island’s capital and main port.
The top 5 beaches

Apella: One of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, with fine white sand, small pebbles, and deep turquoise waters, surrounded by pine-covered rocks that come all the way down to the sea, while water gushes from springs on the mountain above. As if this superb setting was not enough, the incredible Cave Church of Saint Luke is nearby. It is no accident that Apella has twice been named the best beach in Europe. You can get here either by excursion boat or by car along a dirt road.

 Kira Panagia: A much-photographed beach with golden sand, small pebbles and shallow blue-green waters overlooked by the red-domed Church of Our Lady. It is ideal for families as it has umbrellas, sun beds, and quiet tavernas for a bite to eat.

Diakoftis: A sheltered beach with exotic scenery on the south side of the island. The rock formations, dunes covered in juniper bushes, dazzling white sand, and shallow turquoise waters create a Caribbean atmosphere. The beach has a few umbrellas and sun loungers as well as a canteen for drinks and snacks.

Ahata: An enchanting beach that stands out for its beautiful white pebbles and steep surrounding cliffs. Set in an idyllic cove with turquoise waters and verdant hills on the eastern side of the island, it is relatively secluded but there is a taverna here for food and drink. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit if you choose the ferry for Karpathos.

Ammoopi: One of the island’s most popular beaches, as it is well-organised for fans of water sports. One end is dominated by “Asprouas”, a white rock that is perfect for diving off. It has dark sand and shallow waters that make it ideal for families with young children.

Don’t leave Karpathos without…
  • Making a stop at the excellent Folklore Museum in Othos, with its authentic recreation of a traditional island home containing antique furniture, hand-woven textiles and everyday items.
  • Discovering the pristine beauty of northern Karpathos along its ancient stone-paved paths. Majestic landscapes unfold before your eyes with scattered farmhouses, dry-stone walls, threshing circles, stables, churches, and windmills. One of the most beautiful trails connects the magical plateau of Avlona with the exotic natural harbour of Tristomo.
  • Visiting the traditional woodworking studio in the picturesque village of Othos, where you can see lyres and other intricately carved objects being made.
  • Buying your own pair of stivania, the traditional handmade boots of the island, as the ultimate souvenir of a visit here. You can order them in the village of Olimpos, where the traditional occupation of bootmaker still survives. Women’s stivania are traditionally red and elaborately embroidered.
Tasty experiences
  • Enjoy makarounes (handmade pasta) with soft mizithra cheese or fried onion if you choose a ticket to Karpathos.
  • Try vizanti or ofto (lamb or goat stuffed with rice, offal, raisins, pine nuts and herbs, and cooked in a wood-fired oven) and hondro (meat with bulgur wheat).
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with the local tourtes (sweet cheese pies filled with soft mizithra or creamy sitaka), zembilia (sesame seed pies in the shape of half-moons, filled with raisins and cloves), sisameli (a dessert made with sesame seeds and honey), and baklava.
  • Sample kopeles (triangular parcels of pastry filled with wild greens), gra (a vegetable pie baked in the oven), lahanopitia (pasties filled with vegetables), mizithra cheese pies, and kolokithopoulia (courgette flowers).
  • Enjoy the sweet red wine produced in Othos, a village with a long tradition of viticulture.
  • Taste parrotfish (caught only in the seas around Karpathos), either fried or in a stew, and menoules (salted sardines in olive oil).
Trivia

In 2018, the prestigious Forbes Magazine included Karpathos in a list of the world’s 33 best budget-friendly travel destinations, along with famous resorts such as Naples, the Caribbean island of San Martin, Phuket, and Dubrovnik.​

MAP OF KARPATHOS
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